Is the final frontier really worth it?
September 15, 2010 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Is a trip to Kennedy Space Center worth the investment of time and money? Additional question: if it is, would it also be entertaining to a three year old?

More qualifications: my wife and I and our three year old will be in Florida, and we have never taken any of the bus tours of KSC. (I visited once for a couple of hours years ago, but did not have time to do any of the bus tours then). We will NOT be there anywhere near a launch date.

I've been to the Air and Space Museum (as well as the annex), and have been a space buff off and on since childhood. I already know a lot about the space program, so I would primarily be interested in seeing the launch sites as well as the assembly building, rather than the displays of the visitor's center. From what I have found online, none of the bus tours really get very close to either of those locations.

Admission to the visitor's center is $41 for an adult and $31 for a child, while the more in-depth bus tours are $21/$15, for a total of $170 for all of us, which is a lot, but worth it if the tour is "mind-blowing".

An additional wrinkle is our three year old. My wife has offered to drop me off at the space center and take her to the beach, rather than subjecting her to a potentially boring (to a three year old) tour and museum. Is there enough at KSC to be entertaining to a three year old?

I know a lot of this is personal preference, but for those of you who have gone, would you do it again or did you feel it was worth your investment.
posted by dforemsky to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
I say go for it, but by yourself. It's a pretty cool place. And while you don't get really close, you don't need to be close to the building that houses the shuttles to realize how big it is. When I was there (feb 2009) a shuttle was on one of the pads so we got a pretty good view. Definitely do the big bus tour - the operators are very good. Otherwise you're seeing much of the same stuff you'd see at AASM/Annex in the main building.

There is a lot of great stuff to see and read (and I'm not a particular space buff but do like museums). But a 3 year old will get bored, and you would really rather be able to read every placard, wouldn't you? I went with 2 kids who were slightly old (5 and 8) and they were tolerant but not enthused, except by the alligators. And she won't be old enough for the simulator, which is actually pretty fun.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

It was a long time ago when I went, but we didn't get very close to any launch sites, and since it was just after the Challenger disaster, we didn't get to see much at one of the regular stops (due to the crash). We drove by launch pads, but did not stop, and certainly did not get out. YMMV.
posted by lobstah at 12:45 PM on September 15, 2010

I forgot to mention... we had an eight year old with us who was acting bored, but recounted the event with much enthusiasm upon his return to school.
posted by lobstah at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2010

Kid is too young, the sight of a Saturn 5 on its side is a thing to behold though.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2010

If you do go, the bus tours are *the* highlight. Don't miss them out.
posted by Mwongozi at 12:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do take the kid, don't forget to see if they have astronaut ice cream in the gift shop/cafe. That's what my kids liked at the Huntsville Space Center.
posted by CathyG at 1:34 PM on September 15, 2010

We took our three-year-old and he was a space fanatic at the time. He ended up bored out of his skull. He was three, after all. We took him back when he was about ten and had the BEST time of his LIFE (or so he said). We thoroughly enjoyed both visits (and have been twice since then) but unless your three-year-old is exceptionally focused, I would steer you away from taking her.

So, take your wife up on her offer. It really is worth the money, especially if you're a space buff. The launch simulation (of one of the Apollo missions) always brings me to tears.
posted by cooker girl at 1:59 PM on September 15, 2010

How far out you can get to the launch site depends pretty much on the day/setup at the time. If that's your goal, you probably won't get it. But there are other things you'll see that are interesting.

I don't think I'd take a 3-year-old though, just bring her some toys/ice cream from the gift shop.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2010

There aren't too many touristy things a three-year-old would be entertained by. Maybe a zoo. Maybe. But Kennedy Space Center? No way.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2010

I'm not a space buff, I was dragged there by my family (as an adult), and I still thought it was awesome. I doubt a 3 year old would care about any of it. If your wife isn't attached to seeing it, let her and the kid go to the beach.
posted by desjardins at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2010

no and no.
posted by spacefire at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2010

I live on the Space Coast, and could have gone free last weekend, and still didn't go. I'd recommend it only for the serious space buff, and definitely not for a 3 year-old.

If you go, go alone and bring your child back a cool toy shuttle from the gift shop and she'll be happy. Take your wife up on her offer!
posted by misha at 6:28 PM on September 15, 2010

It's awesome, especially the Saturn V and the launch "countdown sequence" with the original instrumentation from the Apollo era. I'm so glad I went & wouldn't trade it. But a three-year-old will not only find it tedious, she'll also lessen your enjoyment because you'll be constantly worried about keeping her entertained. I say take up your (wonderfully generous) wife's offer.
posted by media_itoku at 3:11 PM on September 16, 2010

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